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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 12: Metropolitan Park and Panama Viejo

All photographs © 2003 Mary Beth Stowe


The next morning we got to sleep in a little, seeing as our destination, Metro Park, was fairly close. This is supposedly the largest urban park in the world, but what a great patch of forest! We stood in a clearing for a good while and picked up Golden-crowned Tyrannulets singing right away, and both Thick-billed and Yellow-crowned Euphonias right in front of us. A male Black-throated Mango checked us out (not nearly as striking as his wife, IMHO) but the best bird was a pair of White-necked Puffbirds in a distant tree! Tony pointed out a Black-striped Sparrow tuning up, which I didn't recognize at all; this song rhythmically sounded like our Olive Sparrows but of course more in the oriole range (we actually managed scope views of this skulker)! We also had a Yellow-backed Oriole singing who finally showed himself, plus a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and Forest Elaenia to round out the LBJ group. Tony helped me correctly identify a Plain Wren singing across the way, so I felt good that I was recognizing something in the Thryothorus camp! The highlight for many was a Bat Falcon Tony spotted on a distant crane!


L-R:  Yellow-crowned Euphonia, skulking Black-striped Sparrow, and White-necked Puffbirds

We then headed to the very top where two Green Shrikevireos were battling it out, and we all got knockout views of one of them! We walked over to a great view of the city, where a Purple-crowned Fairy and Long-tailed Hermit came in to those red bean flowers. Back where the bus had parked, Jose spotted a Rosy Thrush Tanager, but he was very uncooperative (the tanager, not Jose); we managed to get Long-billed Gnatwren, both Lesser and Golden-fronted Greenlets, lots of White-shouldered Tanagers (including a patchy male), and wintering Yellow-throated Vireo and Bay-breasted, Prothonotary, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. But the star was a huge Black Hawk Eagle that went sailing by at eye level!


View from the top


The prize for many was this Green Shrikevireo, a common canopy bird that sings incessantly, but is extremely hard to spot!   

Heading back down the hill we stopped at another overlook where a White-bellied Antbird responded to the tape, and we heard a Rufous-and-white Wren singing. Down the road the antbird made a brief appearance, as well as a knockout Lance-tailed Manakin and spiffy female Fasciated Antshrike! Jose spotted another thrush tanager, and while it responded to the tape (sounding very much like the nearby Black-bellied Wren), it never showed itself, and because the particular song it was singing wasn’t familiar to me, I didn’t count it. The Rufous-and-white Wren did pop up briefly, however! We also scared up a cooperative Slaty-tailed Trogon, and a German couple had found a Blue-crowned Motmot, which Tony found again!


L-R:  Blue-crowned Motmot, Slaty-tailed Trogons, peek-a-boo female Fasciated Antshrike (the right shot is fuzzy, but you can see the bird’s shape better...

After that we headed back for lunch and siesta, where I finally took a shower (one shower for four people made it rough) and caught up with the journal. The wind was howling on deck, but added Short-tailed Hawk to the list in the process. Decided to go to the hummer feeders after awhile, shooting the usual suspects before it was time to head for the locks. We joined the other turistas and gawked at the huge ships being pulled into the locks by the little locomotives (and some of these ships pay over $100K a pop to go through these things) and checked out the ever-present frigates, but after awhile the sun was just too hot, so we headed for the "old city" (a.k.a. Panama Viejo).


Another female White-necked Jacobin graces the feeder


We take some time to watch a ship go through the famous Panama Canal locks (Some ships pay over $100K a pop to go through!)


The ships are actually pulled through by one of these little locomotives!  At right is the Panamanian flag.


Left:  school kids on a field trip; right:  Jose and our tireless driver! 

They weren’t kidding! I envisioned something like Old Town (a little village in San Diego), but it was literally the ruins of the actual "old city" of Panama! The hopes of the shoppers were dashed when it was discovered that the shops were closed, but we at least managed to add Saffron Finch here, then headed to a coastal area where the tide was still way out (a jogger thought he was being helpful by informing us that we needed to be there at high tide), but we did manage to add the common seashore birds, as well as Whimbrel for the whole trip. On the way back to CT we spotted a group of Gray-headed Chachalacas under a tree in a suburban area!


The ruins of Old Panama


Saffron Finches; male (left) has an orange crown.  At right:  Tropical Kingbird


The mudflats of Panama Viejo had lots of shorebirds (if you had a scope)!       

We dropped off Jose so he could enjoy New Year’s Eve, then headed home, had dinner (our table was particularly rowdy; Jan reported that she caught Tony looking our way several times, and he did indeed finally come over and make a crack about the wine bottle not even being empty yet), went over the list, and called it a night (after assessing everyone else’s rooms)!

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